Wednesday 22 November 2017

Cautious Kerry raising concerns that bear little relation to reality

Click to enlarge the graphic
Click to enlarge the graphic
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

All of Kerry have been on message this week, spooling out well-worn refrains of how Cork are at their most dangerous as underdogs.

We're invited to believe that Cork are 'a lot better than they've looked' and reminded of how it took a booming long-range effort from Fionn Fitzgerald to snatch a draw in the 2015 Munster final.

That Cork lost the replay by five points and have been in a tailspin ever since has been ignored amid Kerry's drive to convince us that the script for tomorrow's clash is strangely unreliable.

Here's the reality - unless Kerry under-perform to an alarming degree, they will win a fifth successive provincial title for the first time since the 70s quite comfortably. They go into the game as Allianz League champions for the first time since 2009, having greatly boosted their stock with a win over Dublin in the final.

Clare tested them three weeks ago but an upset never looked likely. Contrast that with Cork, who were stretched to the limit before beating Waterford (30th of 32 teams in the League) in the Munster quarter-final by a point.

It was the same in the semi-final, which Cork also won by a point against a Tipperary side whose prospects were greatly diminished by losing Michael Quinlivan in the first half.

Asked after the semi-final which improvement he would like to see most of all against Kerry, Cork manager, Peadar Healy replied: "To play for a full 70 minutes."

Cork certainly didn't do that against Waterford or Tipperary as they carried forward faults that badly undermined their attempt to escape from Division 2 at the first attempt.

They led Down by three points late on in their final League game but were reeled in and had to settle for a draw. Two weeks earlier, they drew with Meath after leading by eight points in the 48th minute. Both games were in Páirc Uí Rinn.

It's not exactly the sort of pattern that will encourage Leeside fans on their way to Killarney this weekend. After all, if Cork could only win two (they drew three) of seven games in Division 2 before nudging home by the merest of margins against Division 4 and 3 opposition, it takes some leap of faith to believe they have any genuine prospects of usurping Kerry.

Cork's main concern has been in attack. Only Down and Fermanagh scored less than them in Division 2 while 1-12 against Waterford and 1-10 against Tipperary suggests the problem hasn't been resolved in the intervening weeks.

Kerry scored far more in Division 1 than Cork did in Division 2 and followed up with 1-18 against Clare, despite being a man short for all of the second half after Donnchadh Walsh's dismissal.

It's a long time since Cork were at such long odds (11/2) against Kerry, reflecting a belief that the best they can hope for is to put up a spirited performance which keeps them competitive all the way and gives them something to aim at for the second coming in Round 4 of the qualifiers.

They may well achieve that. Meanwhile, Kerry can look forward to becoming the first side to book their All-Ireland quarter-final place.

Irish Independent

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